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HOME LovingthePersonWhoIsn't"OneofUs"
LATESTADDITIONS
SERMONS By:RubelShelly
FAXOFLIFE
TOPICS Thebestwayforthechurchtogetclearaboutourmissionintheworldistostudythe
BOOKS lifeofJesus.OurgoalistobeinourcorporatelifethecontinuationofwhoJesuswasin
TAPES hispersonallife.Sonaturallywetakeourcuesfromhim.Wewatchhimbreakdown
ABOUT barriersbytakingtimeforchildren,affirmingthedignityofwomen,andreceivingthe
SEARCH peopleothersavoid.Hetoucheslepersandblindpeople.HereceivesGentilesandmakes
aSamaritantheheroofoneofhisbestknownparables.Herescuesawomanaboutto
bestonedforcommittingadultery.Heeatswithtaxcollectorsandsinners.Asyouread
thosestoriesfromtheGospels,however,younoticethatthereligiousestablishmentis
outragedbyhisbehavior.Theydon'timitatehim.Theycriticizehimandeventually
murderhim!

Itdistressesmegreatlythatchurchesgenerallyhavethesamebadnamewiththe
generalpublictodaythatIhavejustgiventhe"religiousestablishment"ofJesus'time.
Thatis,churchesaretypicallyviewedmoreasexclusiveclubsthanwelcominghavens.
MorepeoplesaytheyfindnonjudgmentalacceptanceinAlcoholicsAnonymousthanin
churches!AndifyouareinclinedtoreplyinadefensivemodethatgroupslikeA.A.are
willingtotolerateeverypointofviewandletpeoplegetbywithdoinganythingthelike,
youareexposingthefactthatyouknownothingabouthowthatgroupfunctions.

Christ'schurchissupposedtobetheplacewherethedisenfranchisedandrejectedfind
acceptance.ItwascreatedtobetheplacewhereJeworGentile,slaveorfree,andmale
orfemalewouldallstandonequalfooting.Itissupposedtobeaunifiedgroupinour
fragmentedworldthatmodelsonenessamongblackandwhite,haveandhavenot,
educatedandilliterate,DemocratandRepublican,AmericancapitalistandChinese
communist.Isthathowtheworldseesthechurch?Doesthechurchbridgethosegreat
dividesinhumanexperience?Why,wecan'tevenmodelunityamongthoseofuswho
confessChristastheSonofGodandtrytofollowhim!

Jesusnotonlychallengedhisdisciplestolovethosewhowereethnicallyorsocially
differentfromthemselvesbutthosewhohelddifferentreligiousbeliefs.Doyourealize
thattheParableoftheGoodSamaritanpointstobothraceandreligionasdistinctions
betweenthewoundedmanandhisrescuer?Ironically,JesusmadetheSamaritanthe
heroofthestoryastoryhetoldtoaJewishaudience.

Oneofthemostinformativetextsinthisregardisonethatdeservesmoreattentionthan
itgetsamongchurchpeopleespeciallythemoreconservativeoneslikeus.Itisa
loveyourneighborpassage.Thecircumstancesthatproduceditareclearfromthebrief
contextinwhichitisset.ThenarrownessofhisowndisciplesforcedJesustoconfront
themfortheirsuspicion,hatred,andexclusionofsomeonewhoseexperienceofhimwas
differentfromtheirown.

"Teacher,"saidJohn,"wesawamandrivingoutdemonsinyournameand
wetoldhimtostop,becausehewasnotoneofus."

"Donotstophim,"Jesussaid."Noonewhodoesamiracleinmynamecan
inthenextmomentsayanythingbadaboutme,forwhoeverisnotagainst
usisforus.Itellyouthetruth,anyonewhogivesyouacupofwaterinmy
namebecauseyoubelongtoChristwillcertainlynotlosehisreward"(Mark
9:3841).

Johnwasguiltythatdayofwhatmanyofushavedoneoverthecenturiesofchurch
history.Heequatedbeing"oneofus"withbelongingtoChrist.Hewasmistaken.Jesus
rebukedhisnarrownessandtoldhimtostoppassingjudgmentsonotherpeoplewho
werefollowinghim.PaulwouldlaterrebukethechurchatRomeforthesamesortof
narrowmindedness:"Whoareyoutojudgesomeoneelse'sservant?Tohisownmaster
hestandsorfalls.Andhewillstand,fortheLordisabletomakehimstand"(Rom.
14:4).
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IhaveadearfriendwhoispastorofaPentecostalChurch.Awhilebackhemadethis
confessiontome:"Rubel,timewasthatIwouldnothaveconsideredyoumybrotherin
Christbecauseofthewayyouwerebaptized.MychurchtraditiontookActs2:38tobea
'pattern'thatrequiredustosay'inthenameofJesusChrist'asaverbalformulawhen
weimmersedsomebody.Andbecauseyouwerebaptized'inthenameoftheFather,and
oftheSon,andoftheHolySpirit,'Icouldnothonoryourbaptism."

Canyouimagineit?WebothbelievedthatScripturewastheWordofGodtohumankind.
WebothconfessedJesusChristtobeImmanuel,Godcomeintheflesh.Wehadboth
repentedofoursins.Webothbelieveditwasnecessarytobeimmersedinwaterforthe
remissionofsins.Buthethoughtmybaptismdidn'tcountbecausethe"formula"
somebodysaidwhenIwasputunderthewaterinvokedtheTrinityinsteadofthename
ofJesusonly!Canyouimaginethearroganceofthat?

Here'swhatItoldhim:"DearBrother,Ifeltexactlythesamewayaboutyou.Becauseof
howIwastaughttointerpretActs2:38,Iwouldnothaveconsideredyoumybrotherin
Christ.Icouldnothonoryourbaptism.Icancertainlyforgiveyouyourarrogancein
judgingme,ifyouwillforgivemyarroganceinjudgingyou!"

TherearesomeBiblestoriesintheOldTestamentthatweusedtotellwithparticular
slantstomakepeoplethinkthatGodisasticklerfordetailandeagertomakean
exampleofanyonewhobrokearule.Theywereusedinsermonstosaythatanybody
whomisinterpretedScriptureorfailedtofollowthebiblicalpatterndowntoitsminute
detailshadnohopeofseeingGod.Sowetoldabout"pooroldUzzah"whomadean
honestmistakeintouchingtheArkoftheCovenantandwasstruckdeadforhistrouble.
Wewarnedabout"strange"and"unauthorized"worshippracticesinlightoftheNadab
andAbihustory,inwhichthetwosonsofAaronwerekilledonthespotforsomeoffense
theycommittedintheirhasteorinattentiontotherulesofthesanctuary.

Uzzahdidn'tdieasagoodmanwhomadeanhonestmistake.TheArkoftheCovenant
wasnevertobemovedexceptatGod'scommand,thenonlybyspeciallydesignated
Levitesunderpriestlysupervision,andalwaystransportedbylongpolesinsertedthrough
ringsonitssidesthatcouldrestontheshouldersoftheporters(Ex.25:1214Num.
4:56,15).Uzzahwasn'tarighteousmanwhodiedtryingtodothebesthecould.Hewas
inthelanguageofthetext"irreverent"formishandlingtheark."TheLORD'sanger
burnedagainstUzzahbecauseofhisirreverentactthereforeGodstruckhimdownand
hediedtherebesidethearkofGod"(2Sam.6:7).Asonecommentatorputsit,Uzzah
hada"seriousattitudeproblem."Hisstoryisaseriouswarningagainstanyonewho
wouldbeirreverentenoughtodisobey.Itisnotastorythatshouldbeusedtoscare
honestpeopleseekingGodwithreverence.Itisn'taboutmistakesbutdisobedience,
beingpunishedformisunderstandingbutfordisregardofclearinstruction.

ThesamecanbesaidfortheNadabandAbihustoryinLeviticus10.Ittoohasbeenused
tojudgepersonsandgroupswhodonotconformtoanexactpatternorblueprintfor
worship.Foronething,onehastocreatethepatternorblueprintbyhop,skipping,and
jumpingthroughthebiblicaltextandnotfromanythingofferedinScriptureasa
blueprint.Foranother,theverycasescitedtomakeGodoutasticklertyrantshowquite
theoppositeand,instead,revealhislongsufferingspiritwiththosewhoseekhim.For
example,NadabandAbihuappeartohavebeenguiltyofthesamesortof"irreverent
act"thatUzzahcommitted.Attheendofthestory,allthepriestsarenotwarnedabout
howtolighttheircensersnexttimebutcommandednevertotouchadropofalcoholon
thedaystheyofficiatebeforeYahweh(Lev.10:811).

Itisparticularlyinterestingtonotethattheverysamechaptercloseswithanaccountof
howAaron'ssurvivingtwosons,EleazerandIthamar,violatedthecommandtoeatthe
offeringtheypresentedforthepeopleafterthatmorning'stragicevents.Moseswasina
panicbecauseofhisfearthatGodwouldstrikethemdownaswell.WhenAaron
explainedtoMosesthattheyhadnoteatenthemeatbecauseoftheirmourningand
anguishoverwhathadjusthappened,"hewassatisfied"(Lev.10:20).Godtoowas
apparentlysatisfied,fornocalamitycameonEleazerandIthamar.Eleazer,infact,
succeededhisfatherashighpriestforthenationwhenAarondied.

God'sinstructiontousintermsofrulesandcommandmentsistobetakenseriously.A
disciplelistensandlearns.Aservanthearsandobeys.AsJesuswouldlaterteachus,
however,somediscipleslearnmoreandsomeless.Andtherearevaryingdegreesof
responsibilityforservants,dependingontheiropportunitiesandpossibilities.Thesense
offairnesswehumanshavecomesfromthefactthatwearemadeinGod'simage,after
all.

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Butiftheservantthinks,"Mymasterwon'tbebackforawhile,"andbegins
oppressingtheotherservants,partying,andgettingdrunkwell,the
masterwillreturnunannouncedandunexpected.Hewillteartheservant
apartandbanishhimwiththeunfaithful.Theservantwillbeseverely
punished,forthoughheknewhisduty,herefusedtodoit.Butpeoplewho
arenotawarethattheyaredoingwrongwillbepunishedonlylightly.Much
isrequiredfromthosetowhommuchisgiven,andmuchmoreisrequired
fromthosetowhommuchmoreisgiven(Luke12:4548).

Soweneednotworrythatlackofinformationandopportunitywillbetreatedas
rebellion.Weneednotworrythatsomeonewhodoesthebestshecanunderlimited
conditionswillbetreatedlikethe"irreverent"and"defiant"person.Itisonlydeliberate,
willfulsinthatonecommitsagainstGodindefianceofhisholinessforwhichthereisno
sacrificelefttoatone(Heb.10:26).

TheGodwhohasbeenrevealedinJesusdealswithusasalovingfatherdoesaprodigal
butdearlylovedchild.Wearenotnumbersonhisjudge'sdocketwearetheobjectsof
hisloveasdaughtersandsonswithinthedysfunctionalhumanfamily.Yetweneedto
understandthatGoddidn'tbecomekind,loving,andgraciousafterCalvary.Calvary
happenedbecausehehasalwaysbeenthatway!Andthehorriblemisrepresentationof
thoseOldTestamentstoriessuchasthetwoalreadynamedisperhapseasiertojustify
thantheavoidanceofcertainstoriesthatwouldhavetaughtusnottounderstandthem
astheywerebeingrepresentedtous.Takejustoneexample.Itisastoryabrother
pointedmetowhenIwasinUgandaseveralyearsago.

HezekiahbecameKingofJudahatage25intheyear715B.C.Hewasconvincedthatthe
horriblestateofaffairsinhiskingdomwasduetothesinsofhisforefathers.Theyhad
beenpunishedbyYahwehfortheirfaithlessnessandrebellioninthefaceofallthe
propheticwarningshehadsentthem.Sohesetabouttoinitiatearestorationofthe
spirituallifeofthepeople.HecalledthepriestsandtheLevitestogether,commissioned
themtorefurbishthelongneglectedtempleatJerusalem,andtoreinitiatesacrificesto
theLord(2Chron.29).

Movedbyasinceredeterminationtorestoretheordinancesofdevotion,Hezekiahsent
runnersnotonlythroughallofJudahbutintoIsraelaswelltoannouncethatPassover
wouldbecelebratedatJerusalem.Hisintentionwastocallthepeopletogether"inlarge
numbers"tokeeptheFeastofPassover"accordingtowhatwaswritten"(2Chron.30:5).
HispleatotheNorthernKingdomisparticularpoignant,forIsraelhasbeendevastated
bytheAssyriansandmanyofthekinsmenofthosehecalledtoJerusalemforthe
festivalwerestillmourningtheirfate.Listentothelanguageofcontrastbetween
rebellionandseeking,punishmentandmercy:

DonotbelikeyourancestorsandrelativeswhoabandonedtheLORD,the
Godoftheirancestors,andbecameanobjectofderision,asyouyourselves
cansee.Donotbestubborn,astheywere,butsubmityourselvestothe
LORD.CometohisTemplewhichhehassetapartasholyforever.Worship
theLORDyourGodsothathisfierceangerwillturnawayfromyou.Forif
youreturntotheLORD,yourrelativesandyourchildrenwillbetreated
mercifullybytheircaptors,andtheywillbeabletoreturntothisland.For
theLORDyourGodisgraciousandmerciful.Ifyoureturntohim,hewillnot
continuetoturnhisfacefromyou(2Chron.30:79NLT).

Nownoticetheoutcome.Peoplebeganstreamingintothecityfromthroughoutthe
divided,scattered,andalienatedpeopleoftheland.ThepriestsbeganthePassover
processwithsacrificesfortheirownsinsandthenbegantoofficiateforthepeople.
Then,amongsomewhoarrivedfromdistantareastoolatetopurifythemselvesforthe
Passover,adilemmaarose.InthemidstofKingHezekiah'scallfordevotiontotheLord
andcarefulobediencetohiscommandments,thishappened:"Althoughmostofthemany
peoplewhocamefromEphraim,Manasseh,IssacharandZebulunhadnotpurified
themselves,yettheyatethePassover,contrarytowhatwaswritten"(2Chron.30:18a).

Willtherenewalprogrambecompromised?Willitbenecessarytopunishandbanish
thosewhoate"contrarytowhatwaswritten"?Willtheking,priests,andconsecrated
peoplehavetoseparatethemselvesfromtheoneswhohavebrokentherules?Haveyou
heardoftheJabezPrayer?Haveyouprayedit?HereistheHezekiahPrayerthatisfar
moreappropriatetoourtime,place,andalienationinthelargerChristiancommunity:

ButHezekiahprayedforthem,saying,"MaytheLORD,whoisgood,pardon
everyonewhosetshisheartonseekingGodtheLORD,theGodofhis
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fathersevenifheisnotcleanaccordingtotherulesofthesanctuary."And
theLORDheardHezekiahandhealedthepeople(2Chron.30:18b20).

Godwillhealourdivisionsyet,ifwewilllearntopraytheHezekiahprayerforone
another!Race,economics,gender,religion,politicswehaveturnedalloftheminto
pointsofdistinctionanddivision.Andwehaveusedreligionwithparticularvengeanceto
passjudgmentononeanother.Howutterlyshameful.

**No,itisnotrightthatChristconfessorswhoarenotpartof"ourgroup"
shouldbejudged,opposed,andputoutofbusiness.Jesussaidnobodywho
givesacupofcoldwaterinhisnamewillfailtoberewardedbyhim(Mark
9:3841).

**No,itisnotcorrecttothinkwearerightandeverybodyelseiswrong.To
thecontrary,withoutthinkingforamomentthatweareperfect,Iam
pressingtowardtheheavenlygoalthatseesperfectioninChristalone(Phil.
3:1214).

**Yes,wehaveeveryrighteventhespiritualobligationtolive,teach,
andshareourconvictionsaboutChristasourbestefforttohonorhimbut
neverasjudgmentofothers(Rom.14:913).

**Yes,wemayandshouldpraythegenerousHezekiahPrayerforthose
whomwethinkaredefectiveinsomepartoftheirspirituallifeandask
themtopraythesameprayerforusinourdeficiencies(2Chron.30:18b
19).

Letusbeknownforlovingoneanother,notsquabbling.Letusmeetourneighborsin
servicetothem,notinconfrontation.Letusloveacrossthedividinglinesofraceand
gender,economicstatusandreligiousaffiliations,neithercompromisingourownbeliefs
norjudginganother'sfaith.ItisChristwhoisthejudgeofusall.

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